Portland co. defends drone accused of peeping

Portland co. defends drone accused of peeping


by Erica Heartquist, KGW Staff


Posted on June 24, 2014 at 4:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 25 at 11:04 AM

Are you afraid of peeping drones?

PORTLAND -- Lisa Pleiss didn't expect to see a drone hovering outside the window of her 26th floor apartment Sunday morning, but that’s exactly what she saw.

Her apartment in downtown Seattle sits at the corner of Terry Avenue and Stewart Street. She thought she had all the privacy she needed high above the streets. On Sunday, she thought she was more than free to walk around naked in her apartment.

"It was freaky,” said Pleiss. “You don't expect to be walking around indecent in your apartment and then have this thing potentially recording you.”

She called down to her concierge who called Seattle Police. Police said owning and flying a drone is legal.

Joe Vaughn is founder of Skyris Imaging, a Portland company that builds commercial drones. It was one of his that Pleiss spotted.

Vaughn heard about the incident Monday after local media coverage about a renegade drone nosing into people’s bedrooms.

"Yesterday, when I found out that there was a news story, I immediately contacted the Seattle Police Department, let them know my name, the name of my company, what we were there for and who my client was,” Vaughn said. “Then, they called my client to confirm that we were there for a reasonable purpose.”

Watch the NBC report on current drone privacy

[Above, image captured by Skyris drone outside Pleiss's apartment]

Vaughn said the drone was flying on a legitimate job and wasn’t even pointed at her apartment.

The drone was one of six that the company uses to photograph skyline views for architects, real estate agents and developers.

"So that an architect or a developer or a leasing agent can say to somebody who's looking at making a lease on the 20th floor, ''I like that view'" said Vaughn.

Vaughn said he only flies in areas where he has permission from the property owner and wasn’t trying to spy on Pleiss.

On the day Pleiss saw the little helicopter, Vaughn said he was taking pictures for a developer planning a 20-story office building. Vaughn said he doesn’t hire out for spying.

"I've had attorneys that have asked us to do land surveys and look at other people's property and I just say no. People who want us to collect information about other people, they aren't our clients," Vaughn added.

Vaughn called Pleiss to chat on Tuesday and hopefully he said, set her mind at ease.

"We had a very nice conversation and we'll be sending her a print of the photograph we ended up taking on Sunday morning," he said.

More: Watch video of drone in Portland